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Merseyside fire authority approves £10m cuts package
WIRRAL councillors say they approved harsh cuts to the fire service with a "heavy heart."
Merseyside's fire authority passed a budget yesterday that will mean all but two stations will have just one fire engine based there.
The £10m worth of cuts will also see 57 support staff lose their jobs, while 90 frontline firefighter posts will go over the next two years through natural retirement rates.
Although chief fire officer Dan Stephens warned that the reduction in appliances would mean an extra two and half minutes for a second engine to arrive at an emergency, he insisted that the option was better than the prospect of closing stations across the county.
He said: "As I said last week, this was the least worst option under circumstances and I made the point to councillors that I would not make these recommendations if I didn’t need to.
"But we are required to deliver £10m of savings over two years and we can’t do that without having some impact on operational response."
As part of the budget, the authority gave the go-ahead for a 2% rise in the council tax precept following four years of reduced Government grants.
But Labour councillor Steve Niblock, who sits on the authority, said certain decisions had to be made.
He told the Globe: "We had some very difficult decisions to make because of the cuts imposed on us by the Government and none of our members are happy with the decision.
"But we were forced into by the cuts and we took advice from the chief fire officer because he is the expert in this matter."
And Conservative councillor Lesley Rennie said the residents could still expect an efficient fire service.
She said: "The grant that we got from the Government was slightly disappointing but it could have been much worse.
"We are going to have to make drastic savings but needs must and it was with a heavy heart that we approved the cuts.
"The safety of our firefighters and Merseyside residents will always be our priority."